Fruitlands: Louisa May Alcott Made Perfect

by Gloria Whelan

Gloria Whelan has based this fictional story about the eight months Louisa May Alcott... read more

Gloria Whelan has based this fictional story about the eight months Louisa May Alcott and her family lived in an idealistic community called Fruitlands on the few surviving entries from Louisa’s childhood journals about the experience. In an engaging narrative, she uses a dual journal format, both in Louisa’s fictional voice. One journal is written for her parents’ eyes (“I will put down a record of all that happens, for Father says that a journal is the way to come to know yourself, and it is only by knowing yourself that you are free to become yourself.”). The other is a secret journal that ten-year-old Louisa keeps hidden, knowing her Mother and Father sometimes “peek into our diaries.” (“Mother says our diaries ought to be a record of pure thoughts and good actions…Yet Father tells us that we must be honest in our thoughts. I don’t see how the two fit together.”) Each type of entry illuminates the other as together they tell story of those 8 austere, hard-working months. Much of Louisa’s “public” journal writing chronicles the business of their days, instances in which she failed to hold her tongue in her criticism of some of the others in their community, and her resulting remorse for not being “good.” In her private journal, Louisa’s spirit shines as she writes, unfettered, of life at Fruitlands, and makes acute observations about the various members of their community and the often dire situation in which they find themselves as they rely wholly on the land’s meager output for food. Readers familiar with Little Women will be especially drawn this story featuring Louisa and her sisters that is full of humor and warmth, even as it imagines how an often difficult time in the childhood of a beloved writer played out. (Ages 8-12)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2003

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